Sampras Beats Rafter 7:6(6), 6:4 to win Del Mar Development Champions Cup
LOS CABOS, Mexico, March 22 - Pete Sampras saved two set points and defeated Patrick Rafter 7-6(6), 6-4 Sunday to win the singles title at the $150,000 Del Mar Development Champions Cup, the third event on the 2009 Outback Champions Series champions tennis circuit. Sampras earned a first-prize paycheck of $60,000 for his fifth career title on the global tennis circuit for champion tennis players age 30 and over. Sampras also earned 800 ranking points to overtake John McEnroe as the No. 1 ranked player on the Outback Champions Series with 1600 total ranking points.
“It’s nice to win,” said Sampras. “I’d rather win than lose. It’s still competitive and the people here want see you play tennis.”
Playing on a hard-court surface at the Palmilla Tennis Club, Sampras fought off two set points on his serve at 4-5, 30-40 and at 5-6 in the first-set tie-breaker before pulling out the tie-breaker 8-6. Sampras needed only one service break in the second set to close out the match for his second tournament victory on the Outback Champions Series this season.
“It was definitely a tough match,” said Rafter, the 1997 and 1998 U.S. Open champion playing his debut event on the Outback Champions Series. “Your body isn’t used to playing like this. We are still playing hard, but we don’t move as fast. Pete didn’t serve as well as he could have.”
Sampras said it was an adjustment playing against Rafter and his serve-and-volley game – a style of play that is increasingly become more uncommon in the modern game.
“Pat is a tough competitor – he always has been,” said Sampras. “He plays serve and volley tennis and I haven’t seen that very much lately.”
The Sampras-Rafter final marked the first meeting between the two former U.S. Open champions since the 2001 U.S. Open. Sampras, a five-time U.S. Open champion and owner of a men’s record 14 major singles titles, won 12 of 16 matches with Rafter during their ATP careers. Quipped Rafter of his reunion with Sampras, “I haven’t seen Pete in eight years. He hasn’t changed much. We’re just a bit slower and losing a bit more hair.”
Rafter earned $40,000 for his runner-up showing. In Sunday's third-place match, Jim Courier earned $25,000 by defeating Mats Wilander 6-4, 6-4.
“Tennis above all else should be fun,” said Courier after his third-place victory. “These tournaments allow us to play hard, but we can still enjoy ourselves between sets. I played some great matches here. The level of play has been high. I think this tournament here in Cabo was a great success. The crowd is wonderful. The weather is incredible and really everyone is so happy and friendly.”
Said Wilander of his week in Cabo, “I mostly played all day and at night - most people are here for the same reason - the relaxed lifestyle, the beach and water. Everyone is relaxed. The fans here are enthusiastic and knowledgeable about the game. It’s obviously a really new tennis center. With so many people coming to watch, maybe the sport will grow here in Los Cabos and in Mexico.”
The Del Mar Development Champions Cup benefits for Los Cabos Children's Foundation.
Sampras won the opening event on the 2009 Outback Champions Series, defeating McEnroe in the final of the Champions Cup Boston in February. McEnroe won the second event of the year in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, defeating Courier in the final. Following the Del Mar Development Champions Cup, Outback Champions Series events will be played in Grand Cayman (April 23-26), Newport, R.I. (August 20-23), Charlotte (Sept. 24-27), Surprise, Ariz. (Oct. 8-11) and Dubai, U.A.E. (Nov. 18-21).
Founded in 2005, the Outback Champions Series features some of the biggest names in tennis over the last 25 years, including Andre Agassi, Sampras, McEnroe, Courier and others. To be eligible to compete on the Outback Champions Series, players must have reached at least a major singles final, been ranked in the top five in the world or played singles on a championship Davis Cup team. The Outback Champions Series features eight events on its 2009 schedule with each event featuring $150,000 in prize money as well as Champions Series ranking points that will determine the year-end No. 1. The year-end champion will receive a $100,000 bonus.